Baffin Sound (2015)

LOCATION: St. Anthony Harbour, Newfoundland and Labrador

Case number: 120-685

The incident occurred on June 23, 2015, when the Canadian Coast Guard (CCG) in St. John’s, Newfoundland, received a report from the local Harbour Authority that an oil sheen was originating from the fishing vessel Baffin Sound in St. Anthony – a fishing town on the northern reaches of the island of Newfoundland. The vessel had been tied up at the town wharf in St. Anthony Harbour for the past 7 to 8 years. The diesel engine had been removed, but it was unknown how much hydrocarbon remained on board. The Transport Canada registration system details that the fishing vessel was built in 1976. It was constructed of steel and was some 24.35 metres in length. At the time of the occurrence, the vessel’s hull was very rusty and the mooring lines were not in good condition.

At mid-day on June 23 two Canadian Coast Guard Environmental Response (CCG ER) personnel motored from St. John’s and arrived at St. Anthony the following day. Arrangements were made to meet with the owner’s representative. (The owner himself resides in a community across the Strait of Belle Isle on the Labrador Coast.) The Coast Guard personnel conducted an assessment of the vessel’s condition, which formed the basis for a Statement of Work for the owner to remove the oil pollutants from aboard the Baffin Sound. The personnel also met with the Harbour Authority of St. Anthony and briefed him about the situation. Upon return to St. John’s, a Statement of Work (SOW) for removal of the pollutants from the Baffin Sound was developed. It was faxed to the owner for review and action. He was advised to provide his intentions and action plan. On June 30, the owner replied that he would be on site in St. Anthony on July 2 or 3 to take the necessary measures. Two CCG ER personnel returned to St. Anthony. The Coast Guard towed a trailer fitted with oil spill response equipment that may have been required during the tasking to monitor the vessel owner’s response. The next day they arrived in St. Anthony and briefed the local Harbour Authority on the status of the operation.

On July 3, the owner arrived in St. Anthony and commenced the measures identified in the Statement of Work. Pails and drums of oil and waste were collected. The hydraulic lines to deck machinery were drained. The engine room generators, hydraulic and lube oil tanks were also drained. The owner reported that he was unsuccessful in arranging for a vacuum truck to remove diesel fuel from the tanks and oily waste from the bilges. The CCG ER personnel continued to monitor the removal of pollutants from the vessel as per the SOW. The owner did not make arrangements within the allotted time frame to hire a vacuum truck to remove the fuel oil. On July 7, after discussion with the Department of Fisheries and Oceans (DFO) legal, Coast Guard itself ordered a vacuum truck to remove the fuel and bilge waste. The vacuum truck removed 1,100 litres of fuel from the vessel into drums. Altogether there were 8,340 litres of waste oily water removed from the bilges. The owner’s representative was on scene during the final operation. Coast Guard personnel briefed the local Harbour Authority on the status of the operation and returned to St. John’s.

On December 2, 2015, the Canadian Coast Guard, on behalf of the Department of Fisheries and Oceans (DFO/CCG), filed a claim with the Administrator for costs and expenses incurred in the monitoring. The claim included the costs and expenses for on-site operations in the amount of $22,185.86, pursuant to the Marine Liability Act (MLA). The claim was received on December 9, 2015 and acknowledged the next day.

On February 24, 2016, after investigation and assessment of the claim, the Administrator made a final offer to DFO/CCG for the established amount of $22,185.86, plus interest, as full and final settlement pursuant to the Act. Coast Guard was informed that interest will be calculated upon acceptance of the offer. The Administrator noted that the prompt submission of this claim is appreciated. In this incident there was a shorter period than usual in the time between the occurrence and the filing of Coast Guard’s claim with the Fund. When asked for clarification and additional support documentation on a few matters, the requested information was provided without delay. Enclosed with the offer of settlement was the standard Release and Subrogation Agreement to be executed on behalf of Coast Guard. Coast Guard was also informed that the Administrator will not proceed with requisitioning of funds until he receives the duly executed Release and Subrogation Agreement.

On March 1, 2016, a letter of acceptance of the offer of settlement was received. It did not, however, include the Release and Subrogation Agreement. Coast Guard advised that, with respect to the Agreement, the Commissioner is considering options on how to proceed. On March 1, 2016, the Administrator acknowledged receipt of the letter of acceptance. He again reminded Coast Guard that a requisition for payment would not be made until the issue of Release and Subrogation Agreements has been resolved.

On July 26, 2016, the Administrator directed payment to the CCG in the amount of $22,926.95 including interest to settle this claim.  A professional locator service was engaged to complete a locate and asset search on the registered owner.  The vessel owner was served with a Statement of Claim in January 2017.  In February 2017 Counsel advised that they had secured judgment from the Federal Court against the owner in the amount of $22,926.25 plus pre and post judgment interest.  In the interim the file remains open.